My Daughter Has Severe Acne at Age 35. It Just Seems to Be the Worst I've Ever Seen. What Kind of Diet Can She Go on to Help?

What food would help clean out the body to cleanse and stop acne? It is so painful for me to look at her and I know she is trapped inside suffering. She has already had laser and it did nothing but cause her pain and suffering. What kind of diet is there to cleanse her system...?

Doctor Answers 5

Recommended Acne Diet

Diet change is worth a try and would probably help to a degree with acne. Acne in the minds of many nutritionalists is in large part a food-borne illness–that is, it is preventable by changing what you eat. Acne is non-existent in non-Westernized populations (such as the Inuit, Okinawa islanders, Ache hunter-gatherers, and Kitavan islanders, all of whom do not consume dairy products), suggesting that acne is largely, if not completely, caused by diet. A study in 2011 in Korea, which followed a total of 1285 participants (783 with acne and 502 as control), supports this idea, concluding that “a high glycemic load diet, dairy food intake, high fat diet, and iodine in Korean foods appear to play a role in acne exacerbation.”

Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 157 reviews

Diet for Severe Acne

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately there is no hard scientific data or magic diet that is supported. Adult acne is often hormonally related. In general eating healthy, keeping your insulin levels stable (by eating well) will contribute to clear skin. In addition, stress, picking at lesions, and using the wrong products can worsen acne and cause scarring. It is essential to seek out a board certified dermatologist who can prescribe a regimen including topical antibiotics, retinoids, or systemic antibiotics, and even hormone therapy and isotretinoin.  A good diet is a good thing to do, but is not the cure to all acne problems unfortunately. I hope this helps.

Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD
Bay Area Dermatologist
3.9 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Re: Acne Treatment Through Diet

Theoretically, low carb diets can help improve acne.  Adult acne is primarily caused by high levels of androgen hormones in the blood stream. And this will cause the oil producing sebaceous glands to get bigger and more active.  Diets that are low on the glycemic index may help to facilitate a hormonal balance that would minimize her acne.

While this is a general approach, she could work more closely with a physician to see which specific foods are closely linked to her acne break outs.

However, a comprehensive acne treatment approach would be the best.  In addition to diet, working with a board certified dermatologist can help immensely.  For example modern dermatology now has a laser called the Spectra system. It is much safer than oral retinoids. It clears out blockages, kills bacteria and changes the physiology of the oil glands so that less oil is secreted. Below is an actual patient example you might be interested in.


Sanusi Umar, MD
Redondo Beach Dermatologic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

Severe Acne How to Treat with Diet / Procedures

You can do a food diary. she could go on a allergen free or low allergen diet. This could be directed by an allergist. Then you can add foods to find out what is causing her breakouts one by one. this will identify what is promoting acne and then you can undergo an elimination diet to avoid those foods. It might not be an allergy but this could help. I would then max out her topical treatments: retin a, chemical peels lightly, clindagel spot treatments and oral antibiotics. If this doesn't help then I would consider accutane as a last resort. birth control pills and spironolactone would preceed the accutane. For the scarring I would consider a multistep approach with co2 laser resurfacing in combination. Don't give up.

Philip Young, MD
Bellevue Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

Diet and acne

Numerous studies have shown that dairy and high glycemic index carbohydrates can contribute to worsening acne.

Dairy products contain hormone precursors.  Hair follicles contain all the necessary machinery to take these precursors and transform them into active hormones.  Androgen (male-like) hormones play a significant role in acne.

High glycemic index carbohydrates, those that are easily converted into sugar in the blood stream, release insulin.  We know that insulin resistance is part of polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal imbalance, one manifestation of which is difficult to control acne.

Diets that exclude dairy and carbohydrates are often helpful in acne.

Emily Altman, MD
Short Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.